The First Date

I knew him from church. I was 16; he was older, and one day he walked up to me and asked if I’d like to go to the laser show with him. I don’t remember why I had to drive (I think his mom didn’t feel comfortable with him driving me in their open-aired vehicle), but I remember pulling down his driveway and feeling a little nervous as he got into my car.

But off we went. We spread out a blanket on the lawn of Stone Mountain and had a picnic over easy conversation. And it was easy. In fact, I have never been on a first date where the conversation flowed so easily. We talked and laughed until the light of day faded away and the giant lasers could be see on the side of the dark mountain. I’m sure mosquitos had their fill on our skin during that hot Georgia evening, but I don’t remember minding.

After the show was over, we stopped for ice cream and managed to stretch our date a little longer until it was time to return to our parents who were checking their clocks on their nightstands. He gave me the cd of Garth Brooks he had brought along for the ride since I mentioned he was the only country singer I could tolerate. And then he smiled and said, “I had a really good time.” “I did, too” I answered.

And I did.

The nervousness returned as I silently prayed that he wouldn’t kiss me (and he didn’t), and then I drove home.

I had a lot of fun with this young man, and I had no complaints about the date–he was polite, he paid, and we had meaningful conversation in the midst of fun–but I knew right then and there that I did not want to date him.

I didn’t have any feelings for him beyond friendship, and I didn’t want to lead him to believe that I felt otherwise. So as my over-analytical self is apt to do, I instantly began worrying over how to turn him down for another date. I knew he would ask for another–we had had a great time–and how does one tell another I had a wonderful time, probably the best I’ve ever had on a date, but I don’t want to go out with you again. When I think about you kissing me, I feel weird.

Luckily, I got grounded. I went to see the USA baseball team in the Olympics with my friend and her family, and even though I was with her family the whole time, my dad didn’t like that we came home from the Olympics late. Even though the Olympics are a rare sporting event to visit one’s city. Even though I rode with my friend and her parents and couldn’t come home until they came home. But I digress.

So when he called and asked if I’d like to go to the Olympics with him, I answered a little too perky “I’m actually grounded because of them.” “You’re grounded because of the Olympics?” he asked, clearly questioning my story.

And I briefly explained how an ill-fated trip to see Olympic baseball had me grounded for the week. I didn’t act like I was upset. I didn’t offer an alternative date for once my punishment was lifted. I simply said I couldn’t, and that was the end of the conversation.

He was hurt, and I’m sure he didn’t understand because I didn’t really understand, and then his hurt turned to anger. He never spoke to me again until a chance meeting in a parking lot where he mentioned that he thought all Christians were hypocrites.

A few years went by; we had gone our separate ways to college and met once again at our home church. He apologized for what he had said previously, and I forgave him. No hard feelings. And then, once again, he gave it another try, contacting me at school.

I thought I had been upfront and honest. I told him I didn’t want to start dating, but he asked for one date, and I agreed. I can’t remember the details of the date, but I remember him driving me back to my dorm after a nice evening. I told him “thank you,” and then I ended the date. I couldn’t ask him up to my room–my roommate was in there sleeping, I was sure, and I thought that gesture would imply something I didn’t want to imply. I could’ve asked him into the lobby, but I guess I didn’t see the point. And he didn’t see the point in continuing a friendship since a friendship wasn’t what he wanted.

I don’t know why I wasn’t interested in a person with whom I always had a good time. I don’t know why I didn’t feel any attraction. It had nothing to do with looks, but he didn’t give me that tingle in my stomach when we were together.

He didn’t cause me to get giddy when I thought about him. He didn’t bring a smile to my face at the mere mention of his name. He didn’t inspire me to stay up until crazy hours of the night because I wanted to hold onto one more minute before we finally said ‘goodnight.’

But one man did.

I can rattle off a hundred reasons why I love this man, but I can’t explain why the attraction grew when it did. Some things are a mystery…

…but perhaps part of the mystery of attraction is that I instinctively knew with whom I wanted to weather my toughest storms. I knew the man with whom I wanted to share my ‘in sickness and in health.’ And I knew the man with whom I would create some gorgeous children.

Or maybe I didn’t.

But someone else looking out for us did.

Regardless of the reason for the attraction, I am thankful. Thankful for the man with whom I have spent nine years. Thankful to Him who guides us and for each additional day together He gives. And thankful that some dates didn’t go past the first.

Flowers Matt gave for our anniversary last week. He remembered I had stargazer lilies in my wedding bouquet.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

What My Parents Taught Me

It was late Sunday morning, and I took a break from packing and cleaning to meet Matt in the den. “Are we going to church?” We had planned to, but with the non-stop pace of vacation (is that an oxymoron?), we never made definitive plans. Matt whipped out the computer and began looking up local churches and church times.

And as Matt searched, I thought about my parents.

We never missed church. If we went on vacation, we found a church. If I had a gymnastics meet in another state, we’d catch up with the crew after Mass. There was never any question as to whether or not we would go–we always would.

One of the benefits of being Catholic was that we knew exactly where we were going and what to expect. We knew the dress code, the formalities, the length of the service; there weren’t any surprises. I can’t remember exactly what my feelings were toward church as a child–I’m sure I thought we should go–but I’m fairly certain I didn’t actually look forward to the idea of pausing vacation to go to Mass.

I did like noticing the differences between the church we were visiting and ours at home–whether or not the church was crowded or empty; if the church pews had cushions and if so, what color; from what country was the priest; did his homily have anything to do with the readings; and, if in the midst of tradition, the church had a relaxed feel or not. I would take in all these differences as we took the hand of the priest after Mass thanking him for letting us visit.

At that time, my parents didn’t understand that God desired an intimate relationship with them, but they did know that He was and is worthy of their awe and respect. I never had the sense that we were going to church to put a check in the box but because we should. God was God, and giving Him an hour of our lives every week to learn about Him was the right thing to do.

So that Sunday morning at the beach, Matt and I looked at all the church services we missed because they started at 10 a.m. (what happened to 11 a.m. being the church standard?). And then, doing something that my Catholic grandmother would have said didn’t count as church, we typed in the web address of a local church at home and watched their service live. We listened as the pastor taught that sometimes we don’t need a reason other than God. When He calls us to change jobs, adopt a child, move–whatever the call–we don’t always need to know why, just that God is God. And God can be trusted.

My parents knew part of that fact, and now they know His grace and the rest. And I am forever grateful for their example, an example that taught me that sometimes the questions are not necessary. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to do what’s right. Because God is God. And, really, that’s the only reasons we need.

I enjoyed our few days away, but it’s good to be home where we’re taking another ‘vacation’ day of lazily unpacking, a little writing while the kids watch T.V., and some relaxed cleaning. I’m linking up with Michelle and Jen today before we get back to business tomorrow!

 

 

Wonder

I’m linking up with The Gypsy Mama for her “Five Minute Friday.”The rules: Write for five minutes flat without tweaking or editing.

 

 

GO:

We lay in bed, two separate twin beds, three children crammed in sleeping bags between our beds, at the foot, beside us. And I looked over in that dark room at you, a tall man in that small bed, and you said, “You can come over here.”

And I excitedly climbed over kids to cuddle next to you, if only for a minute before we drifted to sleep. In wonder I lay as you wrapped your strong hands around me, wonder that you who had driven until three in the morning, tired and uncomfortable, loved me so much that you would exchange a good night’s sleep for a sleep holding your wife.

It was then that I knew how much you truly loved me; it was then that I knew I would be safe in your arms forever.

STOP:

We are on vacation for a long weekend, but I figured I could muster five minutes of writing! I was very distracted by a two-year-old who has suddenly developed separation anxiety–as in I cannot be more than 24 inches away from her at any given time without a meltdown ensuing. Nevertheless, I wrote what I could, and I look forward to reading and commenting on your posts later this weekend. Thank you for stopping by!



 

 

The Crazy Old Bat and Birthday Presents

The family gathered round the old woman in the now familiar den. She sat shoulders haunched over in her wheelchair in between the two green couches framing that side of the room. As her family had become accustomed, they looked on the unpleasant face of the old woman, a face which rarely smiled, her once hazel eyes now gray and lifeless.

“Happy Birthday, Mom,” her youngest daughter offered once everyone was situated on a couch or pulled-up chair, the young children on the floor.

A chorus of “Happy Birthdays” spattered off after Chloe took the lead, and she leaned over from her place on the couch to grab a brightly colored bag just ahead of her. She gently placed the bag in her mother’s lap, and the old woman looked down at her own reflection in the metallic sections that popped out at her. She slowly slid her hand up the top of the bag and fingered the shiny tissue paper that streamed out like the huge water fountains at the mall. And she gave one of her trademark “Hmphfs.”

“Tissue paper. It took days to clean up all that paper. I’d never seen such a mess,” the old woman grumped.

“What is she complaining about now?” her grandson whispered to his cousin from one of the chairs at the back of the party. “Grandma is the only person I know who could find a reason to be unhappy at her own birthday party.”

“Oh, who knows?” answered the teenaged girl, obsessed with twirling her long blonde locks. “Grandma’s just crazy.”

But Grandma was too busy remembering another birthday party to notice her grandchildren at the back of the room.

Yes, the crazy old bat was remembering a time when she wasn’t quite as crazy, wasn’t nearly as old, and was actually somewhat attractive. After five years of raising children she had thought she was going crazy but she was naive as to what was yet to come.

On this particular day in her memory, the young woman at the time was tired; she didn’t feel well and decided she wasn’t going to put the intentional effort into her parenting that she did on most days. Instead, she was going to lie on the couch with her feet up and trust, albeit foolishly, that her children could play nicely for a half an hour.

She heard little feet travel up the stairs, and she heard them travel back down again. She heard the sound that was akin to paper grocery bags, and she heard the rustling of paper. Yet she remained on the couch. There were no sounds of furniture crashing or screams for help, so the relatively speaking young and attractive mother decided to continue lying on the couch while her children played. But the time for her to get up arrived, and she gingerly stepped in the direction of the playroom.

She knew she had taken a risk. She knew she was probably stupid. But 30 minutes prior she hadn’t cared. She hadn’t cared, that is, until she saw every single gift bag she had owned covering the floor of the playroom. Tissue paper, the tissue paper she had carefully folded in order to reuse (that’s right–the crazy young bat hadn’t bought a bag or tissue paper in about seven years) came out of the tops of the bags in a crumpled mess. Wrinkled paper was strewn all over the floor.

“WHAT in the world?….” she trailed off, looking over the mess that overwhelmed even her sensibilities.

The three children turned around sharply looking at their mother.

“We’re having a birthday party!!” her daughter exclaimed with a smile that lit up her whole face.

“Yeah,” her son agreed while he reached down to grab one of the presents.

The mother looked and noticed that the bag was filled, filled with toys from the playroom. Her mind quickly calculated how long it would take her children to put away all of the toys that lined the bottom of each bag.

“Hurry up and have your party so we can clean up,” she said with the wave of her hand, her eyes slightly squinted from the headache that had now formed.

“Here, Hannah Grace,” offered her son. This present’s for you.”

The young girl grabbed the present excitedly, her eyes shining. She reached down and pulled out layer upon layer of tissue paper, throwing each piece on the floor, until she reached in and pulled out a princess Barbie doll, a worn, tattered princess Barbie doll whose hair she had cut. A worn, tattered princess Barbie doll that she had owned for almost a year.

“OOhhh…a princess doll! I love it!” she exclaimed as if she had never seen the doll before in her life.

“Here, Caleb. I got this present for you.” She handed her brother a bulky bag, the toy inside not quite fitting.

“Oh, wow! A football! Mom, look! Hannah Grace got me a football!”

The mother looked on in disbelief. The playroom was full of bags full of old toys that her kids were going wild over. If only the Academy were there to notice their performance.

“Well,” the moderately young mother stated matter-of-factly. “I’m so glad to know that all I have to do for Christmas is wrap up one of the toys that you already have.”

Now it was her kids’ turn to stare in disbelief.

*******************************************

The crazy old bat continued to finger the tissue paper that spew out the top of her bag, and if her children were paying attention, they might have seen the right side of her lips curl in a slight smile.

New to The Crazy Old Bat? Click here to read more of her stories. What’s a fond (or fond in retrospect) memory of your child(ren)’s play?

Graceful Arms

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I was drawn to the look on her face, the wide-eyed sense of awe she displayed as she looked down at the newborn in her lap. Her little body took on the stillness of a statue, yet she emanated a softness from her limbs, two limbs which carefully framed this new life lying across her legs. I couldn’t stop looking at her face, the creamy porcelain skin and gentle smile framed by a bob of strawberry-blonde hair.

As her older brother came near, she whispered protectively, “You can’t touch her face,” and her arms gracefully outlined the baby as a ballerina who curves her arms in the gentlest of form, cushioning the baby’s head with tender, extended fingertips that didn’t quite touch this infant’s skin. It was as if the space between her arms and the baby’s body was filled with fluffy clouds and pillows, this special barrier enough to protect from the two-year-old now climbing on the couch to take a peek.

I wanted to capture this beautiful image forever but fought the impulse to use my phone as a camera, lest the moment be ruined by calling attention to it. So instead, I marveled at the instinct of my not-quite four-year-old and how a new life pulled a tenderness, a stillness, an impulse for reverence from her spirit. And I breathed in the fragility of life, this precious new life and the one not much older who recognized it.

Five days later, I watched a friend weary from grief hold her son while she sang praises to the God who took her husband home. And again, I was reminded of this fragility each of our bodies carries. Our bodies, these weak, imperfect vessels, not promised a tomorrow. Our hearts, not immune to the deep ache of suffering, left feeling raw and bruised so many times along the journey.

I sat in the car on our drive home, and I felt this ache in my own heart, a pain that I knew wouldn’t dull quickly, thoughts of my friends filling my mind. But I looked out the window over the rail on the interstate at the mountains of Tennessee, these rolling hills, and I was reminded that the strong arms that reached down and made these were also gentle enough to hold them.

Throughout the last few days I had seen how Wendy was held. Friends who had accompanied her every step of this difficult journey, friends who made meals or sat around her kitchen table, friends who offered bedrooms to her family or coordinated the cleaning of her house, friends who extended their graceful arms and cradled her head.

I felt graceful arms days later in a gentle breeze against a hot, dry Georgia afternoon, lifting up our heads, tousling our hair as we listened to the preacher pray in front of the casket.  These gentle arms that understood the fragility of all our lives, offering a small blessing in the midst of our grief.

That night as I looked out on the green hills from the window of our van, I felt a profound tiredness. When we pulled into our driveway after midnight, we made our way into the house from the dark and thanked Matt’s parents for watching the kids. We spoke little as we made our way up the stairs and quickly dressed for bed. And that night as we lay under the covers, we held each other a little tighter than normal, resting in each others’ arms, knowing that we could never take these fragile lives for granted.

For those who had been following or are interested in Wendy’s journey, click here to read her final post. Her raw honesty is so beautiful and touching. Thank you for your prayers these last few days. I will update my sidebar (finally) in the next couple of days, and Wendy’s post will appear there, as well.

 

Sad News

I spent the last two days at my parents’ house since Matt was out of town, and I had planned to write a silly post about my brief consideration of moving in with them. However, that post no longer seems appropriate, and, truthfully, I am at a loss for words.

Last year, I shared my best friend Wendy’s story as her husband battled esophageal cancer. Unfortunately, his battle ended this morning.

To say that Wendy is an amazing woman is an understatement. In fact, I consider her a mystery of God. Not only can her mind calculate strange math problems and understand the concepts of AP Physics, enough so to teach a group of high school students, she can write the most beautiful prose one’s eyes have ever seen. But more amazing than her display of giftedness is her inspiring faith. I encourage you today to read the journal Wendy and Emmett together chronicled so beautifully of their fight with cancer.

I know many of you who read this blog pray and believe in a God who answers prayers. I ask you today to pray with all your heart for Wendy and her son Quinn. And for those of you who may read my blog and are unresolved in your faith, I challenge you to read Wendy and Emmett’s testimony. I truly believe their faith will inspire you. And I believe, whether or not you know what you believe, God hears the prayers of all His children. Wendy and Quinn could use them today.

Would you please pray with me?

Dear God, may Wendy and Quinn feel your arms of love surround them as they grieve. Give Wendy the strength she will need in the days, months, years ahead, and guide Quinn as he grows. May they never forget the love and happiness they shared with Emmett, and may they all be united together one day in your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Feel free to add your own prayers for Wendy and Quinn in the comments if you are willing to pray publicly. Publicly or privately, I appreciate all your prayers for my friend.

Neighbors in My Jerusalem

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost five years. I know the names of my neighbors who live next to me and across the street. I know the first and last names of the homeowners association board members, and I know the first names of a handful of others. Some I recognize from repeated sightings at the neighborhood pool. But I’ve never had a neighbor over for dinner, nor have I been invited over to dinner at a neighbor’s house. On a few occasions, I have brought meals to those who were sick or just moved in, but the relationships ended there.

I remember living in New Jersey as a young child, sitting around the table with my mom at one of the neighbor’s across the street. I watched as the man brought his coffee cup to his lips, and I was intrigued by his pinky that he kept curling under. I eventually realized that he was missing part of that finger. Jim and Diane lived next door, and when I watch old home videos of Christmas, they are there. Jim was loud on the videos, fitting right in with family. Diane sat laughing at the goofiness. After seeing my mom push the stroller with my sister while I walked next to her in the cold one time too many, they donated an old Volkswagen bug to my family–the car that caused a few fights as my dad tried to teach my mom to drive a stick.

And there were other neighbors, neighbor kids whom my mom babysat, and neighbors who took me for a ride in the little box that attached to their motorcycle. And there were neighbors who were always ready to share cake and coffee.

I don’t know what made that neighborhood in New Jersey so different, but I don’t ever remember my family having those kinds of relationships again when we moved to Georgia nor have Matt and I formed those kind of friendships in any of our homes. Maybe life got busier for everyone. Maybe the newer houses without front porches and with attached garages encouraged people to drive in their homes and not come out. Whatever the reason, even though I was only a young girl at the time, I miss having those kind of neighbors.

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, New International Version, 2011)

This Sunday our pastor explained that Jerusalem was the disciples’ neighborhood. Judea was the surrounding area, like people in our own area code. Samaria was an area full of people with whom they wouldn’t normally associate, people who made them uncomfortable. And, of course, the ends of the earth included lands they had never seen.

I know more about the little boy we sponsor in the Philippines than my next-door neighbor. I’ve done more to help people in remote African villages than those who are unemployed in my own neighborhood. But perhaps God would like to use me in my Jerusalem. Perhaps there is a little girl who needs to form the memory of sitting around a neighbor’s kitchen table while her mom enjoys a nice cup of coffee.

It doesn’t seem too hard…and while I don’t make coffee, I can bake a darned good cake. Maybe I’ll start there.

 

 

Linking up today with Michelle and Jen. Do you have childhood memories of your neighbors? Do you really know your neighbors now? How have you reached out to those in your neighborhood?

 

Contrary to Popular Belief

Today I’m linking up with The Gypsy Mama for her ‘Five Minute Friday’–a chance to write for five minutes without editing or changing around my words. I’ll just write, and you should, too! Come play along!

The topic: Every day

GO:

Doctors will tell you that kids need a schedule. I know all about schedules–they’re how I survive. I cleaned better when I had a schedule, and I get more accomplished when every slot in my schedule is filled with a task or meeting that needs to be completed. But the last few weeks, I’ve proven the doctors wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, kids do not need a schedule, at least my kids.

Every day since summer started, I’ve heard a little boy crack open his door and sneak downstairs to catch a few minutes of Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Every day I’ve hit snooze on my alarm, got to reading my Bible a little later, writing blog posts and sometimes not finishing in one sitting, and so I’ve let my little man sneak down those stairs while I scurry to throw on a pair of shorts.

Every day we’ve eaten breakfast at an hour that would better serve brunch. Every day three little kids round the table in mis-matched outfits or wrinkled pajamas from the night before.

Every day we’ve thrown our schedule out the window. Shall we go to the gym? Sure! or maybe not today.

Every day is a surprise; every day is full of laughter; and these every days are perfect.

And I say schedules are very overrated.

STOP:

I could’ve kept going with that one! What about you? Do you typically operate better with a schedule as I, or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person? Have you ever found freedom or enjoyment in trying to operate the opposite of how you’re hard-wired?

The Dark Corridor

“One need not be a chamber to be haunted, One need not be a house. The brain has corridors surpassing material place.” -Emily Dickinson

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I don’t know what made me think of him. I was getting ready in the bathroom, and the thought was suddenly there. We never had a relationship–it was 15 or 16 years since I had first met him–but the memory came in strong, and the guilt covered my mind like a dark fog.

We had spent numerous weekends driving around in this old real estate agent’s car. She probably wasn’t that old, but her shaky voice made her sound like she was at least 80. Up narrow, winding roads, looking for a home with the perfect view of the surrounding mountainous landscape. Down narrow, winding roads, never finding that home that made my parents’ hearts beat faster.

Until one weekend.

After seeing every mountain home in the area, Dad was frustrated. “We might need to go up to the next price range to get what you want.” The old real estate agent shook out the words. So my parents agreed. After all, they (or at least Dad) hoped to one day retire in this home.

So back up a narrow winding road we drove, and before we had even parked the car, I knew my parents would love this home. The view was breathtaking, and this simple, gray home was perfect. The main floor had one big room containing the kitchen, eating area, and den. Huge glass sliding doors leading to a porch all around the front allowed one to take in the mountains while cooking over the kitchen stove or relaxing on the couch in front of the T.V. And with the exception of the green-blue carpet covering most of this area, I could picture my family enjoying every inch of this space.

And so it was decided. My parents would buy this home. We went back to look at it one more time, and this time the owner, Mr. K__, was there. I don’t remember why he was moving–divorce? death?–but I remember his situation carrying a sorrowful story. He didn’t want to move but had to.

As I was standing on the porch, looking at the mountains, waiting for my parents, he came up to me.

“You’re stealing my dream!” He let the words escape as a desperate cry. Pain covered his face.

I was put off.

I wasn’t stealing anything. I merely accompanied my parents on their quest.

And I felt terribly uncomfortable and sad. How does one respond to such a statement? Why did he make it to me and not my sister, or better yet, my parents who were actually buying the house?

We drove home that day, and I took Mr. K__’s words with me down the gravel, winding road of the mountain. I never saw him again.

But my parents did.

Mr. K__ was dying of cancer, and my parents showing true goodness and God’s love as they always do, decided to visit him in his final days. They expressed their desire for me to come along.

“I just don’t want to go!” I exclaimed in the whiny way that only a teenager can. “I’m tired of being surrounded by death!” My drama classes had served me well. My parents didn’t protest but furrowed their brows and kind of shook their heads at a statement that they didn’t quite understand.

In the previous few years, I had experienced the deaths of both my grandparents and my aunt, but my reaction was rather extreme.

And I knew it.

The guilt hit immediately as my parents and sister backed down the driveway. I didn’t want to go, felt no obligation to this man with whom I had no relationship, this man who had accused me of stealing his dream, yet I knew I was wrong.

My parents were good people, showing kindness and mercy to a lonely man in his dying days. And I was selfish.

Mr. K__ died shortly thereafter.

But 16 years later, for no apparent reason, Mr. K__’s memory flooded my mind, full of life and reminders of a poor choice I had once made.

I don’t know what makes the memories I have ‘stick.’ I’ve lost so many along the way, good memories, beautiful memories of which my parents or sister or husband will remind me. But then sometimes, out of a dark corridor in the back of my mind, a memory which seems so small and insignificant will float its way to the front, illuminated in my mind’s eye, where I can fully see and remember.

Mr. K__ is there, stealing a place where I’d like to lay other dreams, desires, memories. This man whom I only knew for one day has taken a permanent residence, reminding me of who I was, hopefully much different than the woman I am now.

I don’t know what made me think of him, this man whom I had never really known, this man who made me feel bad for a decision that wasn’t mine, this man who died while I didn’t care and cared at the same time. I don’t know what made me think of him, but I know he resides in a dark corridor of my mind, beneath a dark fog.

Today’s post is inspired by the above writing prompt from Mama Kat. You can check out all of her prompts and others’ wonderful posts at her workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

What haunts you? Have you recently recalled a random event and have no idea why?

The Stirring

I remember sitting in Spanish III, listening to the Army representative describe the most wonderful program I could imagine. They would take me to a school in Colorado, I believe, and I would learn another language. That would be my job–to become fluent–and every day under their instruction I would get closer and closer to that goal.

Looking around that room, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was excited. We all leaned forward in our chairs, smiles stretched across our faces; learning another language was exciting for this group of over-achievers.

Until someone asked the rather important question:

“But would we have to join the Army?”

“Yes, you would have to fulfill a commitment to the Army,” the young man explained.

We all groaned audibly, flung ourselves back in our seats, and the young man smiled, a smile showing his disappointment that the program he had described so beautifully, grabbing our interest, would not become a reality for anybody.

We weren’t going to join the Army; we were going to college.

Of course, no one ever really explained what joining the Army or any branch of the military would entail. In the community where I grew up, the military was reserved more for those who couldn’t get into college or for those rare few who participated in ROTC in high school.

I remember when the Marine ROTC program came to our school; I, actually, contemplated taking the classes, but I always found another course that I had to take instead, a reason ROTC wouldn’t work in my schedule.

So I never understood that the Army or any other branch of service was more was than the horrors of Basic Training I had seen in movies. I didn’t understand that not everyone would have to fire an M-16 at the enemy. I didn’t understand that I could still go to college and actually get money for college if I did ROTC at my university.

I was ignorant.

I did talk to a recruiter once, but I had no intention of joining the Army. I grabbed every bumper sticker and pamphlet from his table, put them all in a bag with the giant letters across it spelling ‘Army,’ and I convinced my friends I was going to join. My boyfriend whispered in fear, “If you join the Army, I’m going to have to break up with you,and I remember thinking to myself You are so stupid. If I want to join the Army, I will whether or not you break up with me.

Of course, I was the stupid one as I continued to date him for another year and a half.

And I was the stupid one for having not sought out that hidden interest until a college degree had been under my belt for a few years.

But on days like the other day, as we celebrate as a community,

driving our old cars,

waving our American flags,

and remembering why we have gathered,

I find that familiar stirring again.

I don’t pray for my children to inherit the stirring, but if they have it, I will support them. And I will make sure that they understand.

Many, even within our own country, would like us to think that America is nothing special; we’re the same as any other country. I couldn’t disagree more. We have our periods in history that I wish we could go back and erase, but when I listen to the news and hear of the atrocities committed elsewhere, remember the reasons our young country was founded and the principles for which young men and woman continue to die in order to protect, I think we’re pretty darned special.

Special enough to catch the ears of some spoiled juniors in a Spanish III class.

Was joining the military presented as a realistic option to you growing up? Would you encourage your own children to join?